THE CLEAN SLATE!

Starting over, AGAIN!

It’s 2022 and the first month of the year is just about over. Like many people, you probably started the year out with a New Year’s resolution or two.  That’s a wonderful way to begin the year by wiping the slate clean. The bad news is by the end of the first month, about one in three people have already broken those resolutions and given up.  To those of you who have still managed to hang in there and are on track to accomplishing those goal, kudos to you! You are awesome! For those you stumbled and fell this first month, you too are awesome! You tried, you didn’t succeed, BUT you still have eleven more months of the year. There is no rule that says you can’t start over, again. January is a long, cold month. I only managed to get two runs in this month. A personal 5K on New Year’s Day so that I could start the year running, and the Shiver By the River 10K on January 16th. My New Year’s Day run is  a ‘new tradition’ I first began on January 1st 2020 with my running friend Steve.

It was cold, but we did it together.  I do it solo now, but we all have to start somewhere and that was the beginning.

 I encourage all runners to start the year out with a New Year’s Day run. It’s a way of setting the year up. You can tie this in with any number of personal Virtual Races if there is no local in person race, and you can earn a medal to commemorate the occasion. But it’s vitally important to start the year with a run to set your mind for the year ahead. If you didn’t do this in 2022, plan to do it on January 1st, 2023. A runner runs!

Also be sure to sign up for the Run The Year Challenge from Run The Edge.  Registration includes a tracker app that you can pair to your Strava or Garmin so you can track your mileage for the entire year . Last year I only managed to run just over 300 miles, but hopefully I’ll do better this year. In order to run the entire 2022 miles, I needed to achieve a 5.54 mile every single day.  I fell short by missing most of the month. Now to achieve my goal, I need to up the mileage to 6.6 miles per day, every day for the rest of the year.  You need to challenge yourself and keep motivated, this is a great way to do that.

So IF you fell short of your resolution in January, all is not lost. Begin again on February 1st. February is a cold month, but it’s also the shortest month.  I have 3 in-person live races slated that I plan to run. Once again, these winter months are brutal, but the key is not to quit! Winners never quit, and you are a winner, not a quitter.  Grab those running shoes and go for a run! The ONLY goal I task you with is to run more miles in February than you did in January. That’s it. I can do it, and so can you!  

You can find me at these upcoming local races

FEBRUARY 2022

Arctic Blast 5K February 5 @ 10:00 am Reading PA

Shiver by The River 10K Winter Race Series #3 of 4  February 13th @ 10:00am Muhlenberg PA

Ugly Mudder 9.5K Trail Race February 19 @ 10:00 am Reading PA  

Be sure to check back  on February 13th 2022 for another article.

As always, I wish you success and happiness!

It’s the Most ‘RUN’derful Time of the Year!

Shivering by the river in Muhlenberg PA

Today is the 12th of December 2021 and Christmas is 13 days away! It’s also the second Sunday in December and the start of the 34th Annual SHIVER BY THE RIVER 5K & 10K Winter Race series.  Each year this 4 race series is held by the PAGODA PACERS athletic club (PAC) , a regional Berks County running club founded in 1980.  Shiver by the River is held on the second Sunday of each month at 10AM from December through March. The course starts at Dietrich Park Muhlenberg  and loops though a nearby housing community before heading back to the park. The course is well-marked and staffed by volunteers to keep you con course . The race is timed by another local running giant, PRETZEL CITY SPORTS (PCS).

Although SHIVER is not specifically a Christmas-themed race, the  first race of the series usually marks one of the last times local runners can wish one another a Merry Christmas before December 25th. The  ONLY one other local race between now and then is PCS’s Humbug Bustle 5K on Dec 18th. On the day after Christmas, the PAGODA PACERS will hold a 5 Mile Kris Kringle Run in Leesport PA.  Many runners today, (myself included) dressed in Christmas running attire.

4 Winter Running Tips

  • Always have a hat and gloves YOU MIGHT NEED THEM
  • Always have a running jacket YOU MIGHT NEED IT
  • Always have shoe-cleats YOU MIGHT NEED THEM
  • Always have a dry change of clothes YOU MIGHT NEED IT

In the winter, temperatures can vary drastically by region. Today in Berks County, it was 43°F (6°C). The sun was shining brightly, but there were occasional wind gusts.  It was cool enough that I was very glad I had a runner’s jacket in my car. Just my red t-shirt would not have been enough, buy my Santa Cap kept my head warm.   Thankfully we have yet to have a regional snowfall, so the streets were nice and dry.  It was just warm enough that I could keep my jacket un-zipped to vent, so I did not work up a sweat. The key to safe winter running is to be prepared for the unexpected. On a short 5K loop, the furthest distance away from your vehicle may only be 2.5K (1.55 miles) but that can be a cold and miserable run back. You can always shed a layer if you need to, but it’s better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it. Hypothermia kills.  

Know your limits

The Shiver series gives you the OPTION of doing a second 5K lap provided you make the first round before the designated cutoff time of 50 minutes.

I have ALWAYS run the second lap ever since I started in 2019. Today I had every intention of doing so once again.  Unfortunately for the past 5 months I have been plagued by a hamstring injury that just will not heal. I was doing well up until mile 2.5, then I began to feel the discomfort in the back of my knee. I did get my lap in before the cutoff time, but I could not be certain that I could finish a second lap if I dared it. I hesitated 15 seconds before I turned right to the finish line instead of left to an uncertain outcome. Yes, I was disappointed that my knee let me down once again, but IF I had not listened to my body and stopped when I did, I might have made things worse and possibly missed even more upcoming races.

Running is supposed to be fun

The joy of running these great local races held by both PAC and PSC is that you get to see familiar faces and are surrounded by friends. The power of a few encouraging words and thumbs-up from your fellow runners can be all the difference between a good time and a bad one.  I carried a small Bluetooth speaker in my running bag today and played upbeat Christmas music as I ran. I wished people Merry Christmas. I told people they were doing great, and they had this in the bag. I had a good time that my non-running friends will never get, and I outran everyone who sat home. I had a great time.

ANOTHER YEAR OVER, A NEW ONE HAS BEGUN!

In regards to running 2021 didn’t turn out the way I intended. I got hurt, missed races, and my times went from personal bests to personal worsts. The good news is that I was able to run as many races as I did. I didn’t quit, I didn’t give up. My times are slowly dropping back towards my normal, and hopefully by Spring I’ll be able to start running half-marathons again, and by November I’ll be ready for that elusive Philly Marathon that keeps slipping through my fingers. I would not be half the runner I am today were it not for the support and encouragement of all my running friends.

December 2021

HumBug Bustle 5k December 18 @ 10:00 am Reading PA

Kris Kringle 5 Mile Run December 26 @ 10:00 am Leesport PA

January 2022

Shiver by The River 10K Winter Race Series #2 of 4 January 9th @ 10:00am Muhlenberg PA

Well this closes the book on another year, as Christmas is in less than two weeks. InstantCoffeeWisdom will return in the New Year. Be sure to check back  on Janury 9th 2022 for another article.

As always, I wish you success and happiness, a Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year!

ROAD DUST?

Pick yourself up after a setback!

ROAD DUST

Since the beginning of the year, I have been in training to run my first marathon. If the idea of months of training for one event does not make sense, allow me to explain. One does not simply decide to run a marathon on a whim. Running 26.2 miles in seven hours or less is a physically taxing task which is beyond the ability of most people.  It doesn’t matter what’s your motivation, if you do not put in the time and effort to condition your body to its best possible shape, you will risk injury and possibly even death.

Three years ago, running a marathon was the furthest thing from my mind. I weighed 325 lbs and was most likely on my way to an early grave. I considered myself both worthless and hopeless. My ‘wake-up’ call was having 3 of my co-workers ( 2 were good friends ) die from heart attacks. All of these men were in their 50’s and overweight. At that moment I knew that if I didn’t take immediate steps to reclaim my health while still in my 40’s, I would soon pass the point of no return. I began focusing on m diet until I found a plan that was right for me. Then I started exercising, and eventually stated running.  I’ve lost over 90 lbs since I began this journey of self discovery.  I am now back down to what I weighed in college and am in better physical shape than I was when I was 25 years old.

Last April, I ran my very first road race. It was the Beat Beethoven 5K at Alverina University held on Sunday April 28th, 2019. Slowly increasing my strength, stamina, and endurance I was eventually running half marathons by Autumn.  I ran eleven official races in 2019 and had planned on more than twice that number for 2020 as I built myself up for the November 2020 Philadelphia Marathon.

2020 started out looking very hopeful until COVID-19, the virus that shut down the world struck. Suddenly all the races from mid March through Summer and part of the Fall were cancelled. Undaunted, I pressed on in my training by signing up for dozens of virtual races. There were a couple of weeks were I ran in 5 days everything from a 5K up to a half-marathon tracking the times and distances with my professional runners smart-watch,  a Garmin 945 Forerunner. The Philadelphia Marathon was still slated as of two weeks ago, and I was greatly encouraged by  this fact. Unfortunately, my hopes were dashed to pieces last week when the Philadelphia mayor arbitrarily decided to ban all large gathering though February 2021, and the Governor of Pennsylvania doubled-down on his draconian laws shutting down the state.  As of this moment, my path forward has been made unclear and uncertain due to this unexpected setback.

Life is what happens when you’re busy making plans

Hitting a stumbling block and getting knocked to the ground is the point at which most people give up. For them, their dream has died and they will forever be a failure. Successful people get up, dust themselves off and pick up where they left off. VERY successful people examine what knocked them down, formulate a plan to prevent similar setbacks, and take a moment to decide on their best course of action BEFORE dashing ahead blindly.

Living in ‘the pause’.

Pause powers performance! –Kevin Cashman

In his powerful book on success, The Pause Principal, Kevin Cashman uses the acronym VUCA two ways, first to describe our world, then to tell us how we must react to it.

Our would is:

  • Volatile
  • Unpredictable
  • Complex
  • Ambiguous

Life is not about what happens to us, but how we react to it! We need to pause, and take a step back to move forward.

Our reaction should be comprised of:

  • Vision
  • Understanding
  • Clarity
  • Agility

Failure is PART of success

Failure is a powerful tool if used wisely. IF a person succeeded at every task they attempted on the very first try, they would never have the impetus to improve themselves. They would never be forced to try harder. They would take for granted every accomplishment as an entitlement that they deserved matter-of-factually.  Failure is part of life! Failure is NOT the end. It only becomes the end IF you QUIT! Quitting IS the end! Quitting IS giving up! Quitting IS DEATH!

“I’m a big advocate of personal responsibility. You do whatever you feel is safe, within reason. You know what’s best for you.” – Ron Horn CEO Pretzel City Sports

On Thursday July 16th, 2020 races returned to Reading PA for the first time since the shut down. At Trooper Thorns,  98 fellow runners and myself gave it our all as we ran the first official 5K race in over four months. It was the most exciting and amazing race I have run thus far and I gave it 110%!  I was ahead of my friend Steve Capozello for an entire 5 seconds, but kept pace with him neck and neck for the next 30-45 seconds as we raced down the trail like two rabid Clydesdales intent on trampling anyone that got in our way. Unfortunately my pace began to slip as Steve is a much faster runner than I am, and he has been running for over 20 years. Slowly he kept pulling further away from me as I tried to keep up by sheer willpower alone!  By the end of our run, I was only 10 minutes behind my friend.  Iron sharpens iron. My blue shirt was drenched with sweat from the effort, and I changed into a dry green shirt that was in my gym bag.

At the awards ceremony, Ron Horn called out the various winners by divisions, ages, and genders.

When he called out my name for 5th place winner in the Male Clydesdales division, I was stunned and said “what?” in total shock. After a back and forth of “who?” and “ME?” pointing at myself,  he said “YOU!”  pointing at me as the third prompting to come get my medal. I had set a Personal Record and  I accepted my first ever medal for placing in the TOP 5 with tears in my eyes.   

qwerty

My friend Steve took 2nd place. Another friend Gina took first place in the Women’s 30-39 group.

TTTwinners

If I had quit running after everything got shut down by the coronavirus, I would not have signed up for a 12 week virtual running series. If I had quit training due to the unpredictable and ambiguous fate of my November 22 marathon, I would never have gotten faster, stronger, and  better. Quitters NEVER win, but winners NEVER QUIT! I have the understanding that The 2020 Philly Marathon is dead, but I also have the clarity of vision that there will be another marathon and I must keep training. I AM A WINNER! Hopefully my example will encourage and inspire you to overcome whatever setback you may be facing. As long as you don’t quit, you too will have your day, and you’ll be able to sit back and reflect upon your accomplishment with pride! As always I wish you success and happiness!

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LIFE, LIBERTY, AND THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS!

The American way!

life liberty and the pursuit of happiness

We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.– Excerpt from the United States Declaration of Independence, July 4th, 1776

Today is Sunday July 5th, 2020. It is Independence Day Weekend in America.  Because the actual date fell on a Saturday, some businesses and institutions were closed Friday as well. Fireworks have been occurring each night across our great nation. On Friday Night President Donald J. Trump delivered a brilliant and stirring speech to a crowd of 75,000 Americans assembled in front of Mount Rushmore, South Dakota. The event concluded with a patriotic music program entitled ‘The Spirit of America’, the largest fireworks spectacle I have ever witnessed, and a live rendition of The Battle Hymn of the Republic preformed by the US Air Force Band.

My personal celebration took place on Saturday morning. I ran The Medal Dash ‘ALL AMERICAN’ virtual half-marathon,  my 5th race of this distance in the past two months.  A half-marathon is 13.1 miles (21 kilometres if you live outside the USA).  A year ago, this level of personal athletic ability would not have been possible.  I am stronger, faster, and fitter now because I have been training hard this entire year in anticipation of my first full marathon, the Philadelphia Marathon slated for Sunday November 22nd, 2020. I am determined to earn that Liberty Bell Finisher’s Medal, awarded ONLY to those who complete the race in its entirety.  I’m proud to be an American, because AMERICAN ends in ‘I CAN’!

HAPPY4TH

GOD BLESS AMERICA!

Philadelphia PA is the birthplace of America. 244 years ago, 56 patriots risked their lives and gathered there to sign the Declaration of Independence, creating the most free nation in the history of the world. America is a land of opportunity. Sadly, there are those among us who would wish to destroy our great nation. They claim racism, injustice, and a host of contrived social ills. These are lies delivered by self-deluded individuals with no moral compass, and no direction in life. They feel the world owes them a living.

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” ― Theodore Roosevelt

Your life IS YOUR LIFE. You are responsible for you own wealth, health, success, and happiness. The world owes you NOTHING. It is your job to pursue your own personal path to success. It is out there. Opportunity abounds and the possibilities are endless.  You yourself have to do the work! No one is going to do it for you, and even if they did, could you truly appreciate it? There is pride in personal achievement. Every medal on my trophy wall is hanging there because I did the work, put in the time, and earned those medals.  You can be successful, if you choose to be. That decision remains entirely in your hands.  I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again. Your life IS YOUR LIFE! So go forth and start living it! Seize the day! As always, I wish you success and happiness!

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A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH!

The importance of training!

A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH

“Motivation remains key to the marathon: the motivation to begin; the motivation to continue; the motivation never to quit.” — Hal Higdon

According to legend, Pheidippides was a Greek messenger who ran 25 miles from Marathon to Athens to deliver news of the victory in the battle against Persia in 490 B.C. He said to the king of Athens, “Joy to you, we’ve won” and then he immediately died on the spot. This is depicted in the famous painting Pheidippides by Luc-Olivier Merson, 1869.  

Phidippides

Twenty weeks from today, on November 22, 2020 I will be running my first marathon.  The modern marathon was named after the famous run by Pheidippides, but it is by no means a death-sentence.  According to a medical review conducted in 2016 the risk of death during or shortly after running a marathon is between  .6 and  1.9 deaths per  100,000 participants.  According to cardiologist Dr Lim Bee Chian  marathon runners often collapse near the finishing line because the build-up of lactic acid in the blood during the run triggers abnormal heart rhythms. In addition, they also suffer from exhaustion, emotional stress, dehydration and heat stroke.

On average, approximately 40% of participants in a marathon are first timers like myself. In many cases the marathon is their first official road race, which is a terrible idea. There is a very old saying that goes ‘You need to learn to walk before you try to run’. On New Year’s Eve 2018, after being inspired by long distance runner Nathan Maxwell, I began training to become a runner. I was not training to run a marathon first, I was training to run a 5K race that was months away. On Sunday April 28th, 2019 I ran my first ever 5K. A few months later I ran my first ever 15K, and a few months after that on September 7th 2019 I ran my first half-marathon. The following month I did it again and ran my second half-marathon.  The important takeaway point I am trying to make is that the training was essential. It was consistent and methodical.  In 2019 I ran a total of 11 officially timed races, this year I had planned to run double that number.  

Long races which are officially timed have support stations along the race course for runners to grab water, Gatorade, or little packets of glucose gel to enable you to keep going. Shorter races such as 5Ks often provide water and snacks at the end. The average time for a 5K race is 30-40 minutes.  10K runs average 50-70 minutes. Good times for half-marathons and marathons are 2hrs and 4hrs respectively, and involve maintaining a 9min per mile pace. I cannot run that fast yet, but I am getting better. Longer faces have cutoff times. Typically 4 hours for a half-marathon and 7 hours for a full marathon. So basically if you can run at a consistent pace of 15min per mile, you can still finish the race before the cutoff time, but you have very little wiggle-room.  I average about a 13min mile, and I am still considered a new runner. I only ran my first official race 14 months ago, so I am just two months into my second year of running, but I am definitely faster than I was a year ago.

Then mid March, the coronavirus shut down all the gyms and cancelled almost every race I had lined up for this year as part of my training regiment.  This in and of itself could have thrown off my entire marathon training plan. Fortunately  Gina,  a member  of a run-club I belong to shared a virtual run series that spanned 12 weeks. Last  Sunday was the final race. During the series I ran 37 races, all timed with my professional runner’s watch, a Garmin Forerunner 945. If you add the 4 races I got in before the virus that shut down the world struck,  I have run 41 races so far this year and am at nearly 4 times as many races as I ran in 2019, so I know what I am doing. A runner runs, and I am a trained professional now. I created an info-graphic depicting the 37 races I ran for The Un-Cancelled Project over the 12 week series.

UNCANCELLED2416222020

If there is one thing I have learned in my 14 months as a runner, it’s not the distance that kills you, it’s both the pace, and dehydration.  Since most races currently are virtual, there are no water stations so I need to self-support. As a Clydesdale (a heavy-weight runner) I require more water than the average racer, especially during these hot summer months. Dehydration is a killer. (So is carrying all those sport bottles of frozen endurance fuel!)  As I start gradually increasing my distances according to my running plan,  the water needed may become a problem.  So far I have run 4 virtual half-marathons in the past two months alone.  I underestimated my water needs for the 1st one May 2nd. So I ran out after 11 miles with 2.1 miles remaining and the hot sun beating down on me.   Fortunately Steve, another member of my run-club was able to bike out to me with a water bottle. This is why I carry my phone while running.  This is also why it is important to run with a group, but as our schedules don’t always mesh, lately I have been doing a lot of solo runs.  Over the next  5 months I will be running 4-5 times a week and following a custom training plan which I derived from several popular marathon training plans including the Hal Higdon plan. Always remember you plan to fail, if you fail to plan! As always I wish you success and happiness!  

WHAT’S YOUR MOTIVATION?

Carrot or stick?

WHATS YOUR MOTIVATION

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.– Jeremiah 29:11

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Wishes and dreams are very nice things to have, but they remain just that unless you set plans in motion to accomplish them. This is why we must have goals in life. The human spirit cannot thrive without hope. It is hope that allows us to make plans and set goals for a better future. It is hope which provides us the impetus to strive to achieve those set goals. However, If we TRULY wish to achieve those goals, we must believe that they are absolutely possible. The moment we say to ourselves “I can’t”, or “it’s impossible”, we have defeated ourselves and we are done! Despair is a dream killer. A positive attitude is fuel for the soul when you are running  on empty.

The Cake is a lie!

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The phrase “carrot and stick” is a metaphor for the use of a combination of reward and punishment to induce a desired behavior. There are some people that for whatever reason cannot ‘self-start’. They sit idle in a vegetative state, unable to take that initial step on the path towards their goals. When someone else is dangling a carrot in front of you while threatening a stick for punishment, they are motivating you to do their work. You are accomplishing ‘their’ goals not ‘yours’. For just a moment, think of this concept at your place of work. The ‘boss’ tells you to get to work, you do your job because you don’t want to get reprimanded or fired (the stick). So you work either willingly or under duress, and you earn wages or bonus pay (the carrot). Now ask yourself, who is getting rich off  ‘your labor’? This is why you have to find your own carrot! It’s out there waiting for you. Probably gagged and tied to a stick in the forest of despair.     

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Motivation is self-motivational!

Once you learn to become a ‘self-starter’, starting is easy. Like the Nike mantra, you “Just Do It”! Habits both good and bad are easy to form, and hard to break.   When I started running at the beginning of 2019, I had a lot of bad habits. It’s very easy to be lazy. I had set a personal goal on New Year’s Eve 2018 that I would start distance running in 2019 with the goal of eventually running a marathon. I was still fat although I had been dieting for over a year at that time. My goal for the first official 5K race I ran was not to be last. I wanted to finish, I knew 1st place was IMPOSSIBLE even with roller-skates and a rocket-powered backpack. It just was not going to happen. So I contented myself with the goal of finishing the race, any place except last. A runner runs, and I wanted to be a runner! On April 28th, 2019 I ran and finished the Beat Beethoven 5K race at Alvernia University in Reading PA, and I was NOT last! Moreover, I received a plethora of compliments from complete strangers that for a first attempt  I ‘did great’. I now knew it was possible to run that distance, that people were rooting for me, and that next time I would do better. I was a Clydesdale ( a heavy-weight runner) and I had found my ‘carrot’!

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Life throws  curve-balls!

After the first year of running, I had set goals in place to run twice as many races, more than two dozen with the big race being The Philly Marathon on November 22,2020. This would be my first marathon ever and the coveted Liberty Bell Finisher’s Medal would  be mine! Running a distance of 26.2 miles was no longer an impossible dream, it was a developing reality that was growing from hard work and determination.  Also I had made new friends in the running community, and we had formed a make-shift running club which I dubbed ‘The Pack’.  And then mid-March, COVID-19 AKA the virus that shut down the world cancelled all my slated races in Spring, Summer, and possibly even some in Autumn as well. Now, here’s where being a ‘self-starter’ and having good encouraging friends comes in handy when you’re running down a dream.       

Gina, one of the more competitive runners in the group stumbled upon a virtual running series from Run The Edge which was called The Un-Cancelled Project. When the information about the FREE series was disseminated  to the group, I was a little skeptical. Joining a FREE series wasn’t going to cost me anything, and besides, with all the official races cancelled, it was the only game in town. It also convinced me to finally purchase a professional runner’s smart-watch,( a Garmin Forerunner 945) so that I could record my time and distance during these virtual races.  

Each week had a theme.

  • gratitude
  • hope
  • humor
  • inspiration
  • courage
  • commitment
  • dreams
  • kindness
  • joy
  • community
  • perseverance
  • life

Initially, the series was set for 6 weeks, with 5 races a week. Two ‘beginner’-5K and 10K, one ‘intermediate’- a half-marathon, and two ‘advanced’- a full-marathon, and an ultra-marathon. Due to both the popularity of the free series, and the continuing coronavirus lock-down, the series was expanded to 12 weeks, and two additional races were added to accommodate the beginners (a 8K) and intermediates (a 15K). Also added was the ability to purchase an optional series t-shirt and finishers medal.

series

Considering that most races cost $30 and up anyway and did come with t-shirts, I immediately jumped on the opportunity to purchase a series t-shirt and medal so that I had something to show for my hard work. I mean we did get free ‘virtual bibs’ for each race that we could customize with pictures and print out, but t-shirts are nice conversation starters and medals look great hanging on a trophy wall.

Speaking of the virtual bibs- a runners ‘bib’ is the paper number they wear pinned on the front of their shirt while running to identify them during a race.  With official timed races, a record is kept by the race officials of each runner and their time. After the race is done, many runners like to keep their bibs for posterity. So the virtual bibs that you could customize lack a runner number and show the distance instead, but you could add a picture in its place. I did that with a few of the 33 bibs I earned thus far.

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GRATITUDE WEEK was a before and after body shot showing how much weight I’d lost my first year as a runner.

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COURAGE WEEK was my first virtual half-marathon and friends who ran it with me.

joy week

JOY WEEK was a collage showing my personal bests, courses, and the friends I ran with that week.

PERSERVERANCE

PERSEVERANCE WEEK highlights my fastest 15K ever!

I must say that these last 11 weeks have been awesome, and Monday June 15th, 2020 marks beginning of the final week of the series LIFE WEEK. Once again I plan to run FIVE races 5K through half-marathon like I did during JOY WEEK, and possibly break at least ONE personal record doing so. And that is the importance of having a goal! Quitters never win, but winners never quit and EVERYONE loves a winner!

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As always I wish you success and happiness!

RUNNING DOWN A DREAM!

Never quit, never surrender!

running down a dream

I rolled on, the sky grew dark

I put the pedal down to make some time

There’s something good waitin’ down this road

I’m pickin’ up whatever’s mine

I’m runnin’ down a dream that never would’ve come to me

Workin’ on a mystery, goin’ wherever it leads

Runnin’ down a dream

Song Lyrics–Runnin’ Down A Dream by Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers 1993

As we enter the THIRD MONTH of the COVID-19 pandemic, the virus that shut down the world continues to put  a major damper on summer fun. Restrictions are being slowly lifted. VERY SLOWLY. Things are far from back to normal. Even IF you were fortunate enough to escape the Triple Whammy of the loss of income, loss of life-savings, and a mounting pile of debt from past due bills, there is still very little to do. Many things have already been cancelled from June through September. Depending on what state you live in, you may face challenging restrictions.

In Pennsylvania a ‘blue’ Democrat governed state, a mask is mandatory to enter the few business that are open. In Florida and other ‘red’ states with Republican governors, masks are optional, and most business have been re-opened for weeks. When you restrict the sick to remain under virtual house arrest, it is called quarantine. When you force the same upon the healthy, you take away their freedom and liberty!, It is a tyrannical power grab. I am not the only person in my state who is fed up with this draconian treatment and many people are protesting at the state capital calling for the impeachment of Governor Wolf. In Philadelphia and other Democrat run cities, Antifa backed mobs stirred up by the death of George Floyd at the hand of Minnesota police has lead to wide-spread looting and vandalism. These are the type of sheep that ‘the Wolf’ adores. Easily manipulated and gullible enough to swallow anything they are fed. Peaceful citizens are made to cower in fear as Democrat leaders refuse to put an end to this madness. All of these seemingly unrelated events are part of a vast left wing conspiracy to stir up civil unrest, destroy a duly elected president, and prevent his re-election. If you believe that this entire situation is not politically motivated, you are an idiot. The virus is a hoax. People need to wake up, and face the facts that COVID-19 is no nightmare ‘boogeyman’ waiting at the door to pounce upon those who dare to venture outside.

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UN-CANCELLED!

Stress impacts the way our body functions in a negative way. It lowers our immune system, causes us lack of sleep, and can increase our blood pressure. It leads to depression and obesity. If left unchecked stress can destroy one’s will to live. If you want to be happy and successful, you need to eliminate stress from your life in any form that is impacting you. While the coronavirus may have taken away many of our outlets for stress relief such as shopping, dining out, or going to the movies, there are still many things that are NOT cancelled.  You may have seen many of these memes across the internet, lists of things that are NOT cancelled like HOPE, JOY, FRIENDSHIP, ect. It is a way of reminding us that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and a bright, beautiful world is waiting outside for us if we can just step out of our own personal dark place.

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My life-changing journey began three years ago when I said to myself that enough was enough and I was going to fight to get the life that I always wanted. This meant a personal commitment to do whatever needed to be done, for as long as it needed to be done.  Winners NEVER quit, and quitters NEVER win. I had to force myself to constantly strive for what I have achieved thus far. I still have a ways to go, but slow and steady wins the race. A runner runs!

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Last year I took up distance running, and ran in eleven races starting with a 5K and working up to half-marathons.  This year COVID-19 cancelled many of my scheduled races, as well as a few in the next two months. I have been training all year for the Philly Marathon on November 22, 2020, less than six months away.

Fortunately my team of fellow runners whom I have dubbed ‘The Pack’ turned me on to a 12-week virtual running series called The Un-cancelled Project sponsored by Run The Edge. Each week has a theme.

  • gratitude
  • hope
  • humor
  • inspiration
  • courage
  • commitment
  • dreams
  • kindness
  • joy
  • community
  • perseverance
  • life

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Last week was week 9, JOY WEEK. I made at least three personal bests. Fastest half-marathon, fastest 8K, and most races in a single week. I ran on four different trails, and members of the team were along for four of the five races as I logged just under 37 miles total.

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Life is meant to be lived and enjoyed!

The point I’m trying to make is your life is up to YOU!

If you allow circumstance and criticism to beat you into submission, than you are not truly alive. Existing is not the same as living, and you need to live your life to the fullest for as long as you are able to. Nothing in life is guaranteed. The United States is a great country. It is a land of freedom and opportunity. If you are fortunate enough to live here, you can have anything you desire as long as you are willing to put in the time, do the work, and have the personal fortitude to see it through to the end. The race is long, now go out and run down your dreams!

 As always I wish you success and happiness!

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THE ‘TRIPLE WHAMMY’!

It’s a cruel, (cruel), cruel summer!

THE TRIPPLE WHAMMY

Hot town, summer in the city
Back of my neck getting dirty and gritty
Been down, isn’t it a pity
Doesn’t seem to be a shadow in the city

All around, people looking half dead
Walking on the sidewalk, hotter than a match head–Lyrics from Summer In The City by The Lovin’ Spoonful 1966

 

wham·my

  • /ˈ(h)wamē/
  • noun
  • INFORMAL
  1. an event with a powerful and unpleasant effect; a blow.

“the third whammy was the degradation of the financial system”  

      2. an evil or unlucky influence.

“I’ve come to put the whammy on them”

Last weekend was Memorial Day in the USA. It has long been regarded as being the ‘unofficial’ start of the summer vacation season. But we are now living in a new reality because COVID-19, the virus that shut down the world has put a major damper on summer fun this year. Like many Americans, I work, save, plan for, and eagerly await my summertime fun. Often it is a mix of several events spread out over  June, July, and August, and extending just beyond Labor Day weekend. Unfortunately this year will be a ‘cruel, cruel summer’ because many people will be forced to spend their summer at home, unable to afford a fun summer vacation. Their vacation plans will be washed away like a sandcastle on the beach.

Hot summer streets
And the pavements are burning
I sit around
Trying to smile but
The air is so heavy and dry
Strange voices are saying
(What did they say?)
Things I can’t understand
It’s too close for comfort
This heat has got
Right out of hand

It’s a cruel, (cruel), cruel summer
(Leaving me) leaving me here on my own
It’s a cruel, (it’s a cruel), cruel summer
Now you’re gone –lyrics Cruel Summer by BANANARAMA 1983

I am one of the ‘lucky’ ones. As I am considered an essential worker, I have been gainfully employed during this nearly three month (so far) COVID-19 shutdown. I have also managed to escape a financial ‘Triple Whammy’ that has befallen many ‘non-essential’ workers at shuttered ‘non-essential’ businesses.  

I have NOT:

  • lost my source of income
  • lost my life-savings
  • racked up past-due, and mounting debts

This triple whammy affects not only many individuals, but many businesses as well! All of these shops that have been closed down since mid-March have still been racking up business debt. Rent continues to be changed whether you are open or not as long as you have a lease. Monthly utility bills must be paid. Payments on business lines of credit must still be made. Many of these businesses will NEVER re-open, and their employees will have no job to return to as a result.

The only real inconvenience that I have been facing is the reality that some of the things that I really wanted to do this summer may not be possible.

My favorite kayak rental place DELAWARE RIVER TUBING is not expected to open till possibly mid-June.

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I sincerely doubt I will be going horseback riding this summer.

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JEEP WEEK in Ocean City MD is still slated as of this date, and hopefully will not be cancelled at the last moment.

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Some of my summer races are now in jeopardy, and they may be cancelled for this year.

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Although all of my ‘official’ races since the shutdown have been cancelled up to this point, I have managed to replace them with virtual runs. I’m running more now than ever before, but it’s just not the same. I miss some of my fellow runners that I only see at the official races, and I am thankful that I have my small group of running friends that meet up several times a week for a ‘fun-run’, and food.

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I am a runner, and a runner runs! I MUST keep running on a regular basis, as I am in training for my FIRST EVER FULL MARATHON. I have run five of the past seven days! I have done a 5K, 8K, 10K, 15K and even a Half-Marathon! I WILL NEVER GIVE UP! The 2020 Philly Marathon is still slated for November 22nd at this time. This event is very important to me. Over the past three years I have been working my utmost to improve my life, and I can honestly say that I am in better physical shape now than I was in college.  

Where is GOD?

“Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.”  – Psalm 107:1

As I have previously stated, I have managed to escape all of the devastating effects of the coronavirus, physical, social, and financial. No one in my family, or in my circle of close personal friends has died from the disease, or even contracted it for that matter. Atheists and cynics might claim that it’s very easy for someone in my fortunate position to praise God. All things come from God. God has a plan, and from a human view point it is often hard, and sometimes downright impossible to determine. That is because the mind of man is finite and God is infinite.

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I am absolutely positive that there are God-fearing Christians all around the globe who have been negatively impacted by COVID-19. Maybe they lost everything, including family and even their own lives. Yes, people are dying. People die every second of every day and have been dying for thousands of years. Our lives are but a vapor, and this world is not our home. When we tragically lose a loved one to disease, an accident, or natural causes, it is sometimes easy for us to ‘forget’ that God gave his only begotten son Jesus to die a horribly painful death on the cross, so that whosoever believes in Him may be saved and receive the gift of eternal life. Life is meant to be lived and enjoyed, and God is always to be praised, and is always good. God does not give us anything that we cannot overcome.

Consider the story of Job. Job was a righteous man, blessed with wealth, sons, and daughters, who lived in the land of Uz. Job lost everything including his children but continued to give thanks to God and to praise and worship him throughout  this entire ordeal. Painful boils covered his entire body.  His close personal friends could not comprehend why this was happening to him unless he had done something wrong. His own wife advised him to just ‘curse God and die!’ But it was all just a test and Job passed and he was restored to health, wealth and lived to see his children to the fourth generation.

I could not have accomplished all the things I have done, or received all the blessings in my life had it not been for God, the Lord Jesus Christ. I became a Christian back in college, and I could not be the man I am today without God. Hopefully you too feel the same way as I do, because God is real, and God is good, ALWAYS! As always, I wish you success and happiness!     

THE FOREVER QUARANTINE!

What are we waiting for???

THE FOREVER QUARANTINE

The  Antiseptic Baby and the Prophylactic Pup 
Were playing in the garden when the Bunny gamboled up; 
They looked upon the Creature with a loathing undisguised;— 
It wasn’t Disinfected and it wasn’t Sterilized. 
 
They said it was a Microbe and a Hotbed of Disease;         
They steamed it in a vapor of a thousand-odd degrees; 
They froze it in a freezer that was cold as Banished Hope 
And washed it in permanganate with carbolated soap. 
 
In sulphurated hydrogen they steeped its wiggly ears; 
They trimmed its frisky whiskers with a pair of hard-boiled shears;   
They donned their rubber mittens and they took it by the hand 
And elected it a member of the Fumigated Band. 
 
There’s not a Micrococcus in the garden where they play; 
They bathe in pure iodoform a dozen times a day; 
And each imbibes his rations from a Hygienic Cup—   
The Bunny and the Baby and the Prophylactic Pup.

poem Strictly Germ-proof by Arthur Guiterman  (His poem was published in the Woman’s Home Companion in 1906 and poked fun at the growing obsession that Americans seemed to have with trying to keep things clean.)

I cannot speak for other countries, but I am seeing a growing frustration with this seemingly endless shutdown. COVID-19, the virus that shut down the world is by and large the top health topic of 2020. Everyone, everywhere is affect by this stupid virus in one way or another. It is impacting health, finances, and religious activity. I like a large group of American citizens feel that the timing of this shutdown and its impact on the nation during an election year is highly suspect.

It seems that there are two camps right now, each firmly entrenched in their own beliefs. Disagreeing with a member of the ‘other camp’ will not change their mind, it will only bring down a storm of wrath and hatred upon you.

The two camps are:

  • those who seemingly believe that COVID-19 is the worst plague in the history of the world and is destined to wipe out all life on Earth unless we shut everything down and quarantine everyone for an ‘safe’ period of.. oh say, maybe a decade?
  • those like myself, who feel that this ‘killer plague’ is nothing for healthy individuals to be concerned about, but that the ramifications of shutting down the economy are far worse than any super-flu.

The country needs to go back to normal TODAY! You quarantine sick, elderly, or infirm people to protect THEM. Forcing healthy people to stay locked-up takes away their freedom and their rights.  This is tyranny, and people need to rise up.

If you are an ‘essential worker’ or have a monthly income, sitting at home is a minor inconvenience. Small business owners stand to potentially lose their life’s work and savings. Furloughed employees in many cases have NO income and cannot feed their families. They MUST get back to work FAST or their children will starve. When this lock-down fist occurred, it was supposed to be temporary. A couple of weeks. Two weeks in March stretched to first ALL of April, then ALL of May, and now PART of June, but maybe longer, and watch out, there might be a ‘second wave’ in the Fall. This madness must end. Just this past Friday there were protests at the State Capital calling for the impeachment and or resignation of Gov. Wolf because of his handling of this crisis.   

“We have a saying in the movement that you can’t trust anybody over 30.” Jack Weinberg activist, in an article printed on November 15, 1964

It’s funny how the hippies back in the 1960’s used to say don’t trust anyone over 30. Once they themselves finally ‘grew up’, their tune changed to ‘don’t trust anyone under 30’. It’s ironic how things come full circle. I believe the most dangerous part of this society today is how these young people, the so-called ‘millennials’,  are so quick to get information and affirmation from peers or viral internet memes, rather than seeking timeless wisdom or expert opinion. It’s as if any bit of information that didn’t occur within their lifetimes does not exist. It’s hard to blame them in some cases because the signal to noise ratio is so vast. When I was a very young boy, the internet didn’t exist, we had seven TV channels and there was no such thing as DVD’s or streaming content. If you missed it, you didn’t see it unless there as a re-run.

Today, with the full sum of human knowledge in the palm of their hand, people choose what facts the want to believe,  and ignore anything that doesn’t fit their narrative. Again, who can blame them? There is so much content being generated each day that it would take a lifetime just to read, watch, and listen to everything created that day.  Now you miss it because it becomes buried in the miasma emanating from the internet.

I AM THE BUNNY OF DOOM! FEAR ME!

Lately I have been focusing on the past.

The poem Strictly Germ-proof has been running through my head for the better part of the week.  Especially the last two lines of the first stanza. When people see me walking around refusing to wear a mask or gloves, I see their loathing. I am ‘the bunny’, but I refuse to let THEM freeze me in a freezer cold as banished hope!  This bunny has teeth and will lash out in self-defense if you attempt it. I have had co-worker who practically accused me of attempting to murder their entire family because I refuse to comply with these CDC recommendations. If you think a mask and gloves will save your life, YOU wear them! If you feel I am some asymptomatic ‘Typhoid Mary’ stay as far away from me as you feel safe. Go take a long walk on a short pier, it might do me some good. And as you sit in self isolation,  maybe you should watch the 1931 film Laughing Gravy, it’s one of my favorite Laurel and Hardy films and should be available to watch online somewhere.  As always I wish you success and happiness!

REALITY IS VIRTUAL!

(At least for now…we hope!)

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As you well know by now,  in mid-March most of the USA, as well as nearly every nation on Earth began shutting down EVERYTHING, EVERYWHERE that was deemed non-essential due to the world-wide pandemic COVID-19,  AKA the Wuhan coronavirus, sometimes shortened to just corona.

It is now nearly two months later, and most of the fun things in life remain shut down. You cannot go to a movie theater with your friends, dine in at your favorite restaurant or pub, and any large gathering if severely frowned upon by people who INSIST that the virus that shut down the world will wipe out all life on earth if you get within 6 feet (2 meters) of another person, or if you don’t wear a face mask, or if you don’t wear rubber gloves, or if you don’t bathe in hand sanitizer. When this began, we were told that these small sacrifices would be temporary, then the weeks turned into months,  the rules went from voluntary to mandatory, and still there is no end in sight.

People are so afraid of dying from Covid 19, that they remain locked-up at home and instead contract Covid-15! What is Covid-15 you may ask? Covid-15 is the new name for a health disorder contracted by first-year college students who would gain 15 lbs by eating unhealthy foods and not exercising. All joking aside, your best defense against the coronavirus is to have a healthy immune system. You get a healthy immune system by having a healthy active lifestyle, and eating healthy foods.  Sitting on the couch glued to the TV for hours a day, munching on Doritos and drinking Mountain Dew is probably the fastest way to wreck your health during this lock-down.  

For people who just go to the gym to exercise, this shutdown has cut off their only outlet for exercise. Unless they have fitness equipment at home, or can improvise make-shift weights, they are out of luck. Or are they?

I can make you a new man!

Charles Atlas  (October 30, 1892 – December 24, 1972) was a bodybuilder in the 1920’s  who developed a no-equipment exercise program called Dynamic Tension almost a hundred years ago. He began offering his free program by mail in 1929. In the Charles Atlas exercise program, you use your own body to provide resistance and are able to exercise weight-free. You can do these exercises virtually anywhere. These are far more effective than isometric exercises, another equipment-free exercise method.  No gym required. So if you’re determined to not step one foot outside until this ‘exaggerated’ crisis is over (probably five or six years from now), you can find all of these dynamic tension workouts online. There are countless YouTube videos . And best of all, they are still FREE! Like the late Charles Atlas proclaimed, give him 15 minutes a day, and he will make you a new man!

GET OUT AND RUN!

Forcing sick people to stay at home is called quarantine. Forcing healthy people to stay at home is not only wrong, it’s tyranny! Many healthy people are frustrated by this lock-down, and they are demanding that the various states in which they reside be re-opened. Again, the doomsayers proclaim that if the ban is lifted, death and all the miseries that plague humanity will come out just like opening Pandora’s Box. I say poppycock! A runner runs! Without access to a treadmill, either at a gym, or a home unit, a runner needs to hit the open road. Since the shutdown, all the remaining races of March, as well as every race in April and May have been cancelled. Now races in June and July, possibly even August may be cancelled as well. State parks have been officially shut down, as have some trails. Again I am thankful that this virus struck in 2020, not a year ago in Spring 2019. I was training at the gym in March and April last year as I prepared for my first ever official timed race, Beat Beethoven at Alvernia University on April 28th, 2019. My first race ever, and six weeks of training leading up to it would have been obliterated. I probably never would have run again.

Fast forward a year later, and now I have a group of amazing friends to hang out with every weekend.  Originally before COVID-19 struck, several of us were planning to run in the Gettysburg Half Marathon to celebrate my one year anniversary of running.  Since the fixed date moves, I now recognize the last Sunday in April as my anniversary date. I was then going to follow up with the Ocean City MD Island to Island Half Marathon.  But as I said, officially timed races are all on hiatus for the immediate future. I, like many runners MUST keep training for upcoming races, pandemic or not! I will be running my first ever FULL MARATHON in Philly on November 22nd,  just over six months from now.

The ONLY thing left for the professional runner to do is sign up for ‘virtual races’ and watch it themselves to clock the time and distance using their runner’s smart watches.  Virtual races are where you register for the race online, then you run that distance anywhere, alone or in groups, on the trails and streets, or even on a treadmill IF you have access to one during this insane quarantine.  Fortunately RunTheEdge.com     has been offering a FREE series of virtual races so my running friends ‘The Pack’ and I have been doing many of these either alone or on in smaller groups during the week, and in much larger groups of six to ten on the weekends. There are also pay-to-run virtual races that will provide you everything from a bib and T-shirt, right up to a finisher’s medal. I personally believe that every time I run a distance of 13.1 miles  or more, I DESERVE a medal.  If you are interested in swag, do a search to see what virtual races are out there and what they offer. Many of them donate a portion of their profits to charities, so you get to do some good for your fellow man.   

Since the last Sunday in April got rained out, a large number of The Pack got to together and ran various distances up to our abilities on May 3rd, 2020. Felicia, Steve, Lacey, me, and Gina ran Virtual Half Marathons (VHMs) together.

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I will caution people that running long distances solo and unsupported is a bad idea. IF you are going to run a VHM or further distance, run with a buddy of equal ability and try to set up water stashes along your route. 13.1 miles is a long distance to run without water, and although we all made it,  we won’t make that mistake again. I was the ONLY one to carry a personal sport bottle, and I ran out after ten miles.  I am the slowest member of the group so my run took an extra hour. Fortunately the faster runners were able to bike out to me with a water bottle by the last mile of my run.

For my first VHM I chose one that offered a medal I craved, TheCrushCorona, a depiction of the dread virus being stomped beneath a runner’s sneaker made me very happy. This was my third half marathon, and my best time yet.  

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As for the rest of The Pack, Allison who suffers from exercise-induced asthma  ran an 8K. Two of the Spartans, Justin and Steph ran a virtual endurance challenge called the  Yeti Ultra 24 Hour Challenge. They had to run or walk 5 miles every 4 hours for 24 hours.  It was a real party, a total celebration with good friends and pizza! We had a blast!

thepack

Unfortunately, a few members of The Pack got backlash from germophobes who felt the need to scold and insult us for our reckless behavior, and for partying while ‘people are dying’. Newsflash– life is for living! No one in the group is sick! Even the two weakest members of The Pack are stronger than the ‘Iowa Couch Potato’.  We support each other, and the strength of  The Pack IS The Pack! We are healthy BECAUSE we LIVE HEALTHY. Your best defense against COVID-19 is a strong body and a healthy immune system.

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This weekend, The Pack decided to mix things up. We drove to a new trail, planned to run 7 miles, followed immediately by what I thought was supposed to be a 14 mile bike ride. At least that was the plan. First, it was an unseasonably cold day. As we were unfamiliar with the terrain, we overshot the bike part by 5 miles, extending the journey to a total of 24 miles. 

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My biking ability is not YET up to a 24 mile trek, especially after running 7 miles in under 90 minutes. 14 miles MIGHT have been doable for me, but the extra mileage did me in so I had to wait a few minutes for rescue once I could pinpoint my location to an intersection at a road crossing. Again, this stresses the importance of the buddy system (and carrying a cellphone) when running or biking long distances.  You do NOT want to be injured and alone in an unsupported race.  

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So if you TRULY desire to live your life to the fullest, get out there and run and enjoy yourself! If people feel the need to tell you how to live YOUR LIFE, ignore them! Haters gotta hate! It’s who THEY are, and what THEY do. YOU are better than THEY ever will be, YOU are amazing! As always, I wish you success and happiness!